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Advertising Association

5 min read Partner content

US remains No.1 for UK ad exports as balance shifts from EU towards other international markets.

The Advertising Association has published its annual UK Advertising Exports Report 2021 showing that international trade in UK advertising and market research services grew 7% year-on-year to reach a new record level of £11bn in 2019.

The figures are taken from an analysis by the advertising industry think tank, Credos, of data from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Pink Book. The data shows advertising and market research services in third place among comparable industries in 2019, behind insurance and pension services (£20bn) and computer services (£12bn).

The US remains the largest single country importer - importing £1.1bn worth of UK advertising and market research services - consistent with previous years. France (£785m), Germany (£712m), Switzerland (£643m) and Ireland (£539m) are the next largest importers of UK advertising, market research, and opinion polling services. EU nations accounted for 40% of all UK advertising, market research, and opinion polling services, with EU and EEA countries accounting for 42%.

The share for EU countries was down significantly from last year’s figure of 53% and shows that UK advertising is orienting towards new markets across the world. The UK once again recorded a net surplus in payments, this time with a value of around £3.8bn – a trend that has persisted since 2013. However, imports rose by 58% versus 2018 meaning that the overall balance of payments dropped by 33%.

The positive trends can be explained in part by the increase in UK advertising and market research companies engaging in international activities, while the number of companies categorised as advertising and market research services has remained largely stable at around 22,700 registered enterprises since 2016. In 2018, 37% of all registered advertising and market research companies had either exported or imported goods and services, whereas 16% had both exported and imported goods and services.

In 2017 this was 25% and 15% respectively. This suggests that the increase in exports is not just being driven by the same companies increasing their volume of exports but by a higher proportion of companies seeking new markets and engaging in exporting.

Graham Stuart MP, Minister for Exports commented: “I congratulate the advertising sector on an exceptional rate of growth. It is very encouraging that UK advertising and market research services exports grew to an estimated £11bn in 2019 and, according to research from Credos, there are now more advertising businesses trading internationally than ever before. It is clear the industry is reorienting to the fastest growing international markets which, with government support, places the sector in the best possible position for the future.”

Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association, said: “These are outstanding figures and offer some much-needed positive news after a tumultuous year for our own industry and the entire global economy. Looking back, what has been so impressive is how quickly business adapted to work in new ways to be able to keep delivering on behalf of international clients.

The full impact of the past year on exports will not be known fully until next year, but with the vaccine roll-out continuing apace and the global economy making the return to normal, now is the time to look forward and plan for the future and to demonstrate that the UK is not only open for business but remains the undisputed global hub for advertising and marketing services.”

Janet Hull, Chair, UKAEG and IPA Director of Marketing Strategy commented: “UK advertising is the world’s centre of excellence and a gateway for companies looking to go global. We can work with China and the US in the same day. Despite the unprecedented social and economic pressures of the last year, UK Advertising Export Group members continued to service global client base, and even expand internationally, with new office openings in key markets and increasing headcount at home and these figures testify to the hard work that industry has put into growing and expanding the global reach of British advertising in recent years.”

UKAEG Member Sentiment Analysis
As part of the report, Credos also polled a number of UK Advertising Export Group (UKAEG) members about their thoughts on winning new business, exporting ambitions, the global Britain agenda, Brexit, as well as other challenges for the year ahead.

Using the data collected, Credos conducted a sentiment analysis to gauge responses. Positive sentiment was detected across most responses but particularly concentrated around the global Britain ambition and driving new business from online events and remote working.

However, some negativity was detected around prospects for securing business this year and the main barriers that might be faced in 2021. Unsurprisingly, respondents reported some nervousness about future prospects as a result of the COVD-19 pandemic and Brexit. It was felt that either of these factors could lead to marketing budgets being cut or market access being restricted. The inability to travel was also cited as a concern, particularly as this is a key channel for driving business development.

The UK Advertising Export Report 2021 also features case studies from UK Advertising Export Group (UKAEG) members. UKAEG is the advertising industry partnership run by the Advertising Association, the IPA, APA, DMA, London & Partners and the Creative Industries Council. It brings together over 50 leading creative businesses with UK Government’s Department for International Trade (DIT) to build exports of advertising services through increased profile and lead generation opportunities in key international territories including China, Japan, South Korea, North America and Europe.

The case studies focus on campaigns created either for overseas markets or clients and demonstrate the breadth of the UK’s expertise in advertising and marketing services.

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